Micro-copy can make or break your site

It may be hard to believe but micro-copy can make or break your site, especially if it is selling something or asking someone to take action like to sign-up to your newsletter.

But first, what is micro-copy? Copy are the words on your web site, usually with the purpose of selling or persuading your visitors to do something. Micro-copy are the words or short phrases that are interspersed around the main elements and text. The simplest example might be “Buy now” on product pages, or even “Go” on search buttons.

One piece of micro-copy that is increasingly popular is “Don’t worry, we promise we won’t spam you” or a similar phrase close to email newsletter sign-ups. This is an example of how important micro-copy can be. The reason that it is popular is because reassuring prospective newsletter members that their email box won’t be filled with junk mail usually increases sign ups. If sign-ups are the goal of an ad campaign you are running, then you are literally burning money by not maximising the chances a visitor becoming a member.

There are other usability reasons too, well worded and well-placed micro-copy will reduce frustration and act as guides around your site. This can reduce technical support enquiries and related costs.

Writing good copy is hard, writing good micro-copy is tricky but not as hard. But you have to keep on looking for improvements, micro-copy can be found everywhere, don’t forget about your 404 page!. One place I like to browse through micro-copy examples (both good and bad) is the microcopy Flickr group.


But you can also create an “ideas folder” yourself to look at good and bad examples. Don’t copy other people’s phrases word for word though.

If you are still struggling here are some tips:

  • Keep the phrases short. It is ok to start off with a longer phrase, and then revise it down to as few words as you can.
  • Be clear. Don’t use jargon. Don’t say characters, say letters. Don’t say alphanumeric, say letters and numbers.
  • It’s ok to use more casual words or phrase. Humour can also be used. The reason is that you are trying to convey friendliness.
  • And of course, test! It is best to ask subjects unfamiliar with your site as to which micro-copy phrasing they prefer. Team members might know what “Deprecated Permission Methods” are but a normal user would not.

I am intending on writing a few more articles on micro-copy, so if you have any questions or would like me to re-write some phrases you have on your web site please leave a comment below. Thanks!